WASHINGTON — Many Americans have been puzzled by the bizarre behavior of soldier Bowe Bergdahl's father, Robert, during a White House Rose Garden ceremony on Saturday celebrating the exchange of his son for five top Taliban commanders.
The father began by saying his son was having trouble speaking English after five years away from home.
He then uttered the Arabic phrase that begins every chapter of the Quran, except one, “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim." It means, “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.”
Brigitte Gabriel of Act for America explained to Sean Hannity in a Fox News interview Wednesday night it declares the greatness of Allah over the land, calling it a "war cry of Allah" and a Muslim victory call.
Essentially, it means Robert Bergdahl was claiming the White House as a spoil of war, she said.
However, Gabriel said she doubts the elder Bergdahl understood the significance of what he was saying and did not intend to claim the White House, or America, in the name of Islam.
But that is how it was seen by the Taliban and Islamic radicals around the world, she said.
The words he spoke are "something Muslims would say throughout the 1,400 year history of Islam every time they conquered a location," Gabriel said.
The Hannity segment included Zuhdi Jasser, a U.S. military veteran who considers himself a moderate Muslim. Jasser said he speaks the phrase in his prayers every day, repeatedly, and insists they are not so radical.
However, Gabriel said, that is not how Islamic hardliners around the world would see it.
The Washington Post reported that as Robert Bergdahl grew his beard, studied Pashto, Arabic and the culture of southern Afghanistan, friends sometimes asked him if he hadn’t succumbed to some form of the captive-bonding Stockholm syndrome, according to Bob Henley, former pastor at the Presbyterian Church the Bergdahls attended.